Effects of Hurricane Wilma in Florida

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Hurricane Wilma
Category 3 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Storm surge from Wilma on Key Haven, island suburb of Key West, Florida
Winds 1-minute sustained: 120 mph (195 km/h)
Gusts: 130 mph (215 km/h)
Fatalities 35 direct, 26 indirect
Damage $20.6 billion (2005 USD)
Areas affected Florida
Part of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season

The effects of Hurricane Wilma in Florida concerns how Hurricane Wilma in 2005 affected the U.S. state of Florida in late October. Initially, orange future prices soared on October 19, 2005. As the system drew closer, schools and government offices closed on October 21. Professional and college sports games were rescheduled during Wilma's advance towards Florida. Evacuations were ordered for southwestern Florida and the Keys. As the storm made landfall, a storm surge swept into coastal sections of southern Florida and high winds led to significant damage near and along Wilma's path, particularly to the power grid. Some locations were without power for 2–3 weeks after the storm. Wilma spawned ten tornadoes in Florida.[1] At least 35 Wilma-related deaths were reported in the United States, all in Florida. Wilma was also blamed for at least 26 indirect deaths.[2][3] Damage in Florida totaled $20.6 billion (2005 USD; $22.7 billion 2008 USD).[4]


Satellite image of Wilma over South Florida

A mandatory evacuation of residents was ordered for the Florida Keys in Monroe County. However, media reports suggested that as many as 80% of residents may have ignored the evacuation order. County offices, schools and courts were closed Monday, October 24. At least 300 Keys evacuees were housed at the Monroe County shelter at Florida International University in Miami-Dade County.[5]

All Collier County public schools were declared closed for Friday, October 21. The schools were closed to "allow parents and staff to prepare for the storm and potential evacuation", and also allowed "for needed preparation of schools to be used as hurricane shelters." The schools remained closed on Monday, October 24 as the hurricane made landfall.[6]

Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers completed an evacuation; classes were canceled until further notice. Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida also evacuated by 5 p.m. EDT on October 20. All campuses of the University of South Florida, the University of Tampa and the University of Central Florida were closed on Monday, October 24.

Mandatory evacuations were in effect for all Collier County residents living West or South of US 41. Other areas that were included in the mandatory evacuation were Seagate, Parkshore, The Moorings, Coquina Sands, Olde Naples, Aqualane Shores, Port Royal and Royal Harbour. Hurricane shelters in the area were opened. Curfews were put in place for several cities in Lee and Collier counties.[7]

Anticipating high winds all public school districts south of Marion closed their schools on Monday, October 24 in order to prevent possible harm to county employees and students. The last places to issue this warning sat within the gap between bands as tornadoes were observed as far north as Sumter, Marion, Pasco, and Polk Counties. Schools in Palm Beach and Broward counties were closed for two weeks due to extended power outages and some physical damage to school buildings. Schools in Collier and Miami-Dade counties were closed for a little over a week, including the University of Miami and Barry University.

Orange juice futures reached the highest level in six years on Wednesday, October 19, closing up 2.9 cents at $1.118 per pound due to the storm's expected damage to orange trees which would have compounded problems caused the previous year by Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne.[8] As dynamic models moved the storm's track east over Florida, oil futures eased as worries of another direct hit on the oil producing regions of the Gulf of Mexico subsided. There were many robberies reported.

The NFL moved up its regular-season game between Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins to 7 p.m. on Friday, October 21 in preparation of the hurricane. The NCAA postponed two college football games scheduled in south Florida on Saturday, October 22. Georgia Tech vs. University of Miami was rescheduled for Saturday, November 19 and West Virginia vs South Florida was rescheduled for Saturday, December 3. The NHL rescheduled its Saturday, October 22 regular-season game between the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers to Monday, December 5. Due to roof damage caused by Wilma and the loss of power at the BankAtlantic Center, the Panthers also had to postpone their October 29 match up against the Washington Capitals. Furthermore, a concert by the industrial rock band, Nine Inch Nails, expected to have taken place Monday, October 24, was postponed and later canceled. Key West's Fantasy Fest held around each Halloween was postponed until December.

Storm surge[edit]

After the hurricane had passed, a storm surge from the backwash of up to 8 ft (2.4 m) from the Gulf of Mexico completely inundated a large portion of the lower Keys. Low-lying areas of Key West and the lower Keys, including major tourist destinations were under up to 3 ft (.9 m) of water from the storm surge. 60% of the homes in Key West were flooded.[9] Much of the originally settled "oldtown", such as the Solares Hill and cemetery areas did not flood due to their higher elevations of 12–16 ft (3.7-4.9 m).[10] The surge destroyed tens of thousands of cars throughout the lower Keys and many houses were flooded with 1–2 feet (.3-.6 m) of seawater. A local newspaper referred to Key West and the lower Keys as a "car graveyard".[11] The peak of the storm surge occurred when the eye of Wilma had already passed over the Naples area, and the sustained winds during the surge were less than 40 mph (64 km/h).[10]

Wind damage[edit]

Several trees were uprooted and low-land areas flooded in Palm City, Florida as Hurricane Wilma was leaving the state.
Even concrete power poles were snapped by the hurricane's winds.
Nearly every window on the west side of South Beach Community Hospital in Miami Beach was blown out.

A Coral Springs man who was inspecting damage during the eye of the hurricane was killed by a falling tree, according to a Broward County official.[12] Three more direct deaths were reported in Florida, one in rural Collier County and two in Palm Beach County, all due to wind-blown debris. In addition, a drowning was reported on Maule Lake in northern Miami-Dade County from a capsized boat. Wilma was also blamed for at least 26 indirect deaths.[2][3]

In the city of Fort Lauderdale, in Broward County, several highrise office buildings suffered extensive damage, including One Financial Plaza, AutoNation Tower, Broward Financial Center, the 14-floor Broward County School Board building and the Broward County Courthouse, which was forced to remain closed for two weeks as a result of the storm. Broward County Public Schools also remained closed for two weeks, and some Miami skyscrapers and high-rises suffered severe damage during the storm. Even while the center of Wilma was still a long way away from Florida, its effects were felt from its expansive outer bands.

The Naples Airport was severely damaged by the hurricane, while areas like Immokalee and East Naples suffered extreme and widespread roof damage to numerous homes and communities. Out of the 170 signaled intersections in Collier County, 130 were destroyed.[2] There was damage to the 90 high-rise condominiums in Coastal Naples, where some levels were blown out completely by the high winds brought by the storm (much like the damage in downtown Miami and Fort Lauderdale). Ninety percent of all mobile homes in East Naples were destroyed, while 30% of the mobile homes in all of Collier County suffered the same fate. Widespread roof damage was evident across the county even outside the City of Naples. At least three deaths were blamed on Hurricane Wilma in Collier County, and widespread wind and water damage is commonplace. Most schools in Palm Beach County had extensive roof and building damage. Also, power failure left schools closed for two weeks. In Boca Raton, a city in southeastern Palm Beach County, the local Boca Raton Airport suffered extensive damage, including the collapse of two hangars, planes that had flipped over, and hangar doors which had blown in. The airport reported $12 million in damages, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.


Florida experienced eleven tornadoes during Wilma's transit. Broward, Collier, Hardee, Highlands, Indian River, Okeechobee, and Polk Counties were each struck once, and Brevard County experienced four.[1] One of the tornadoes to strike Brevard County heavily damaged an apartment complex in West Melbourne, overturning multiple cars. The national weather service reported this to be the result of a long track supercell embedded within the hurricane.[13] In addition, a tornado may have touched down in Miami-Dade County, causing damage to the South Beach Community Hospital.

Power outages[edit]

Florida Power and Light, the largest electricity utility in the state, reported more than 3,241,000 customers had lost power,[14] equivalent to approximately 6,000,000 people. More than 20 days later, some residents and business owners remained without electric service. Cable television and internet services as well as cell phone services were unavailable for up to two months in some areas. Power outages in southeastern Florida, notably in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, compounded the difficulties South Floridians faced following Wilma. Any traffic lights still standing were not working, causing an increase in traffic problems. Gasoline was in high demand for cars and generators; six-hour waits were common, due to lack of power to pump the fuel. Much of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties were placed under a boil water order. Communication was also difficult—land lines were damaged, while cellular towers were either damaged, without power, or overloaded in capacity. Many people later admitted they underestimated Wilma's power (Category 3) as it approached South Florida (Wilma was expected to weaken to a Category 1 as it reached the east coast), and failed to take the precautions that they would have taken with a stronger storm. Damage in Florida totaled $20.6 billion (2005 USD; $22.7 billion 2008 USD).[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b National Hurricane Center. Hurricane Wilma Tropical Cyclone Report. Retrieved on 2007-05-22.
  2. ^ a b c Bonita News. Three confirmed dead in Collier; President Bush to visit Thursday. Retrieved 2005-10-26.
  3. ^ a b NBC 6. Hurricane Wilma Death Toll Rises To 14. Retrieved on 2007-05-22.
  4. ^ a b National Hurricane Center. Hurricane Wilma. Retrieved on 2007-01-26.
  5. ^ Monroe County, Florida (Oct. 23, 2005 12:45 PM). Hurricane Wilma Keys Update-Evacuation Continues. Retrieved 2007-06-02.
  6. ^ Collier County Public Schools (October 19, 2005). Hurricane Wilma News Release #1. Retrieved 2007-06-02.
  7. ^ WBBH NBC-2 Collier County issues evacuations. NBC-2.com. Retrieved 2007-06-02. Archived October 18, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Weather News AccuWeather.com (link dead)
  9. ^ Key West Citizen "New commissioners' trial by wind and flood " October 27, 2005
  10. ^ a b Key West Citizen October 25, 2005 pp 1-2, 6
  11. ^ Key West Citizen "Flooded cars litter the Keys" October 27, 2005
  12. ^ CNN. First U.S victim reported by CNN. Retrieved on 2007-01-26. Archived February 6, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Hurricane Wilma". National Weather Service. Retrieved 2013-05-22. 
  14. ^ "Annual Global Climate and Catastrphe Report: 2005" (PDF). AON Reinsurance Services. 2005. Retrieved 2007-06-02.  p.33.